But where Google Translate and the automated phone operator fall flat is in understanding complexity — abstract ideas, or words that can mean more than one thing. That’s why Bellos believes that machine translation will always require the existence of human translators. Still, he says, machine translation has great potential to expand our sense of the possibilities of communications, as civilization grows increasingly global. “The way airplanes fly resembles not at all the way birds fly. It doesn’t have to. What you want is the flight.”
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